Christian Bioethics 19 (1):25-39 (2013)

Stephen Napier
Villanova University
Recently, Verheijde and Potts (2011) have called into question the whole-brain death (WBD) criterion and, in particular, have taken issue with my admittedly limited defense of WBD. I would like to thank Verheijde and Potts for their comments and for identifying key points in the debate that need further clarification and defense. This article is an attempt to provide such clarification and to focus on Verheijde and Potts’s key argument against me and other proponents of WBD. The structure of this reply is first to clear away some misunderstandings and to articulate further some of my original arguments. These clarifications are necessary to acuminate attention to what is, I believe, the fundamental locus of disagreement between proponents of WBD and its detractors. Detractors assert that patients who satisfy WBD can still evince integrated functioning. On the assumption that persons are not dead yet if they can manifest integrated functioning, WBD is not a reliable indicator of death. In the second section, I address this fundamental point of disagreement, arguing that with no (known) exceptions, patients satisfying WBD require external support (e.g., ventilator) in order to maintain integrated functioning. This fact is important because on the account of the person I endorse, one which I think is plausible, the soul confers on the body certain vital potencies. When the body itself has lost such potencies, we have evidence of the soul not being present. Emphasizing the aspect of self-integration that is characteristic of living human beings avoids the challenge that WBD persons are still alive. In the third section, however, I address what I take to be Verheijde and Potts’s strongest objection against WBD criterion, namely the objection from spontaneous circulation. The responses to this objection point to the fundamental and limited role the WBD criterion is meant to play in organ donation decisions
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DOI 10.1093/cb/cbt008
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References found in this work BETA

Evidence, Pragmatics, and Justification.Jeremy Fantl & Matthew McGrath - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (1):67-94.
A Defense of the Whole‐Brain Concept of Death.James L. Bernat - 1998 - Hastings Center Report 28 (2):14-23.

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When a Nudge Becomes a Shove.Michael Potts, Joseph L. Verheijde & Mohamed Y. Rady - 2012 - American Journal of Bioethics 12 (2):40-42.


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